What is the Difference Between Similar But Different Things, Terms, and Objects

What is the Difference between Starter, Generator and Alternator

Every machine has different parts; some machines are simple while others are complicated. However, some parts are really essential and help in proper functioning of machines. Starter, generator and alternator are three different kinds of machines. Generator and alternator perform same function, but their working procedure is different. For a common person it is difficult to differentiate between three of them. Here we are mentioning the basic difference between them.


An electric motor, or any other device, which is used for rotating internal combustion engine and starts the engine under its own power is called as Starter. Starter can be motor device or non motor device. Non motor starters include spring starting and fuel starting. Hydraulic starters are also available.  Before starters, various manual methods were used for starting the engines, however they were time consuming and unreliable. Starter was a great invention, which created facilities for machine operators.


Generators are used in production of electricity, on large scale. It converts mechanical energy to the electric energy. It is used in various machines and in cars as well. In a generator, an armature is spun inside a magnetic field. Another plus, generator can be used for charging a dead battery.


A device, which converts mechanical energy to electric energy in the form of AC or alternating Current, is called as Alternator. Majority of alternators used a rotating magnetic field; however linear alternators are also available. Alternator cannot charge a dead battery, if we will try to charge, battery will burn out. An alternator is a 3 phase machine, which means it has three separate windings.

Starter vs Generator vs Alternator

Starter, generator and alternator are three devices, which are used in various machines and in vehicles as well. Starter is the basic device, which is used for starting the machines. Generator and alternator perform similar tasks, but their working procedures are different. In generator, armature spin inside a fixed magnetic field, while in alternator electricity is produced when magnetic field spins inside windings of wire. Alternators are efficient, if we compare them with generators. Generators used all the produced energy, while alternator used only the required energy. As far as polarization is concerned, there is no need for polarization in alternator, while in case of generator has to be polarized after installation. Generator can charge dead battery while alternator cannot charge dead battery. Alternators are smaller in size, while generators are usually larger.

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